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Life history strategies affect climate based spatial synchrony in population dynamics of West African freshwater fishes


  • Pablo Tedesco,

  • Bernard Hugueny

P. Tedesco and B. Hugueny, UR IRD 131, Laboratoire d’écologie des hydrosystèmes fluviaux, Univ. Claude Bernard Lyon 1, 43 Boulevard du 11 novembre 1918, FR-69622 Villeurbanne Cedex, France (


Spatial synchrony in species abundance is a general phenomenon that has been found in populations representing virtually all major taxa. Dispersal among populations and synchronous stochastic effects (the so called “Moran effect”) are the mechanisms most likely to explain such synchrony patterns. Very few studies have related the degree of spatial synchrony to the biological characteristics of species. Here we present a case where specific predictions can be made to relate river fish species characteristics and synchrony determined exclusively by a Moran effect through the expected sensitivity of species to the regional component of environmental stochasticity. By analyzing 23-year time series of abundance estimates in two isolated localities we show that species associated with synchronized reproduction during the wet season, high fecundity, small egg size and high gonado-somatic index (the so called “periodic” strategy) have a higher degree of spatial synchrony in population dynamics than species associated with the opposite traits (the so called “equilibrium” strategy). This is supported by significant relationships (P values <0.01) between species traits and the levels of synchrony after removing taxonomical relatedness. Spatial synchrony computed from summed annual total catches by groups of species, separated into strategy types also showed a significantly higher degree of synchrony for the periodic (r=0.83) than the equilibrium (r=0.46) group. Regional hydrological variability is likely to be partly responsible for the observed synchrony pattern and a regional discharge index showed better relationships with the periodic group, supporting the expected differential effect of regional environmental correlation on population dynamics.